Demonstrating an amazing set of golf tricks and offering a constant barrage of jokes tempered with serious advice for young people, golf legend Chi Chi Rodriguez helped The University of Texas-Pan American raise more than $112,000 at its 14th annual Pan Am Golf Classic held April 12 at Los Lagos Golf Club in Edinburg.
Eighty-eight golfers participated in teams of two in three flights for $2,000 in prize money per flight. In the $5,000 guaranteed cash shootout that followed the tournament, seventy chances were drawn from a pool of tournament players to take a shot on hole 18 for closest to the pin.
Rodriguez, clad in his famous Panama hat, held court over adults and children in separate clinics. He told more than 100 junior golfers, age six to 13, to work hard and to keep practicing to reach their goals.
"Pick older people to be your role models, like Gandhi or McArthur, and when you turn on TV watch the Discovery Channel and learn about protecting the animals," said Rodriguez.
During the clinics, Rodriguez joked as he demonstrated bouncing a golf ball on his club head face, a trick made famous by a recent TV ad featuring Tiger Woods.
Rodriguez said, "Tiger Woods may be the best golfer in the world but I am the best Puerto Rican golfer in the world."
Interspersing serious golf tips, such as not standing over the ball too long which creates body tension, with clever imitations of famous players testing the wind, Rodriguez's humorous banter left the spectators breathless from laughter.
Stating he loved being in the Valley and helping UTPA, Rodriguez said, "The university is the vehicle for the young people to take over the United States, not only in business and other entrepreneurial endeavors, but to be the leaders of the world."
George Perez, a tournament player for American Electric Power, said, "The clinic was great, Chi Chi is very entertaining. We support the tournament because it benefits the younger generation."
Roland S. Arriola, Vice President of External Affairs at UTPA, said Rodriguez's presence added prestige to the tournament.
"In the past three years the tournament has grown tremendously and we hope to make it a premiere golf event in South Texas - all to help our students," Arriola said.
Eight-year-old Uriah Velasquez, a student at Stankey Elementary in Donna, sported a Rodriguez-like Panama hat, but said his grandma had made him wear it. Velasquez said he was excited to have Rodriguez help him swing in the Jr. Clinic and his grandfather, Carlos Lugo, also from Donna, said, "We will definitely be back next year."
Members of the UTPA men's golf team, headed by Coach Mark Gaynor, assisted in the free Jr. Clinic. Children were broken into age groups and given one-on-one instruction.
While Rodriguez teed off for Ace sponsors at Hole 4, golfers also had a chance to win a 2003 Ford Thunderbird convertible, provided by Hacienda Ford, and a Harley Davidson - Softail Standard, provided by Rio Grande Valley Harley Davidson of Pharr, among many other prizes. Drinks were provided by Valley Coca-Cola, L & F Distributors, Dewar's and Wells Fargo. Food prepared at a private breakfast shared with Rodriguez was provided by Shea Development. The meal following the tournament was provided by Johnny Carino's.
Other sponsors included: A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc, Bill Martin; AEP Central Power & Light; BFW Construction Co.; Circle K Corporation; City of Edinburg; CoServe; COSTEP; Edinburg Economic Development Corporation; Edinburg Regional Medical Center; Gateway Printing & Office Supply; Gold Headquarters; HEB; Hispanic Magazine; Holiday Wine & Liquor; International Bank of Commerce; J.E. Saenz & Associates; Joe Ramirez; KRGV-TV; La Muneca Cattle Co.; Los Lagos Golf Club; McAllen Carpet; Pueblo Construction; Roberts Chevrolet; SCT Corporation; Sign-A-Rama; Texas State Bank; The Monitor; TopCon, Inc.; and Valley Race Park.
Flight winners included: First Flight - First Place, Steve Fagan and Bobby Chavana, 66; Second Place, Ray Landry and Kay Landry, 66; Third Place, Bob Almendarez and Ray Larrolde, 67. (Winners of ties were determined by matching of score cards from the first handicap hole forward until the tie was broken.) Second Flight - First Place, Chuck Duffing and Jorge A. Perez, 71; Second Place, George Arriola and Juan Rosales, 76; Third Place, Juan Farias and Roy Martinez, 76.
Third Flight - First Place, Joe Ramon and Carlos Rodriguez, 79; Hector Reyna and Clyde F. Lacy, 81; Third Place, Lin Miller and Bob Fatharee, 84.
First Place winner in the $5,000 Shootout was Burt Farrias at nine feet, four inches from the pin on hole 18. Farrias received $2,000. Other placers included Second Place Ray Landry, $1500; Third Place, Carlos Rodriguez, $1000; and Fourth Place, Albert Ochoa, $500.